Birds Marsh in north Chippenham has finally been legally protected from development after nearly five years of campaigning.
The woodland has been granted Village Green status, which makes it a criminal offence to build there. This was applied for last June by the Friends of Birds Marsh and a field below, running next to Hill Corner Road, will also be protected.
But the campaigners have not finished fighting yet. They are mounting a legal challenge to protect another two fields, one in between the two areas and another at the bottom corner of the wood running parallel to Malmesbury Road.
This could block plans for a northern link road, connecting the Malmesbury Road roundabout of the A350 with the B4069 opposite the Parsonage Way junction. The road is part of an outline planning application for 750 houses south of Birds Marsh, which was made in February 2012 by the North Chippenham Consortium, made up of Barratt Homes, Persimmon Homes and Heron Land.
The plans have attracted 103 responses from the public in opposition and three in favour.
Friends of Birds Marsh chairman Pete Humphrey said: “We are delighted to have won this hard-fought battle; it will hopefully safeguard the area for future generations. However, the fight still goes on.
“Even with that field denied to them the developers will still go ahead. If we manage to get the middle field, it makes it more difficult to deliver the road and turn a profit. And if we get the top field it will block a northern ring road.
“Some of the hedgerows and trees are 500 years old and some of the planned road is just 60 metres from the woods. You can’t build around those roots, you’ll damage them.”
The draft Wiltshire Core Strategy establishes that 4,000 homes need to be built in Chippenham between 2006 and 2026, 750 of which should be in the north.
Mr Humphrey said he was not reassured by a buffer zone around Birds Marsh that was mentioned in the document.
He said: “The economic downturn will pass. What won’t change is if they’re allowed to build on the green fields around Chippenham, we won’t get them back. That’s it, they’re gone.”
But Melody Thompson, town councillor for Hardenhuish, said although she was not in favour of the development, the northern link road would be needed.
She said: “If the housing development is forced on us through the core strategy, then we’ve got to have the road to go with it. It will alleviate traffic on Hill Corner Road, which is already used as a rat run.”
The target date for a decision on the North Chippenham Consortium development is June 28. It is unlikely to be considered until after a hearing into the draft Wiltshire core strategy, which for Chippenham takes place on June 25 and 26.